(Photo courtesy of

By Jillian Torre

Members of the Orange County Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professional Leadership Council visited Mount Saint Mary College on Oct. 1 to share their networking wisdom with the students.

The school’s Career Center invited James D. LaPenna, director of marketing and sales, at Allways Secure Inc., Kristin Tamburo of SB Merchant Services, and R.J. Martuccia CPA to talk to students in a panel-style event, “Networking: It’s Who You Know.”

The panel began with introductions of the three guests who all shared their background and how networking has helped them get to where they are.

The students were asked what they find to be the hardest part of networking. Answers varied from being too shy to approach someone to not sure how to start a conversation to what’s theappropriate way to follow up. All of which the panel had answers to.

“Identify relationships with each other,” said Martuccia.

Find the common ground. It doesn’t have to be professional. Talk about an interest or hobby that is shared. LaPenna compared networking to dating and the “wingman” strategy. Have a mutual friend introduce you.

As for the ladies, Tamburo said a compliment can go a long way. Telling someone they have a nice bag is a great way to start a conversation.

When is the right time to approach someone? They all suggested paying attention to body language. If someone looks as if they are ready to leave a conversation, step in and be their out.

Tamburo said to always arrive at an event early before all the groups are established.

“Speak about what you know. Try not to chime in on what you don’t know,” said LaPenna regarding joining a group conversation.

“It’s about relationships first and business will be secondary,” said Martuccia. Don’t write off someone who may not be in a related field. “You never know who that person knows,” said Tamburo.

Also among the panel’s advice: “Always follow up.” Ask for a business card and write something about the person on the card to remember them by and send a brief follow up email within the next few days. Even as a student or recent graduate, having a business card to hand out can be helpful.

The last topic covered was Facebook. LaPenna said he had two rules. “Rule one: Keep it clean.
The second rule is see rule one.” Both Tamburo and Martuccia agreed with this.

LaPenna also said that Facebook does not replace face-to-face communication.

“Nobody wants a relationship with a Facebook page…to go there, say hi and smile goes a long way,” he said.

Martuccia said Facebook can also be a resource to see who is attending an event. If you see someone you’d like to talk to is attending, do your research. Find any information you can on their company’s website. That way you are prepared to talk with them at the event.  This is how Martuccia landed his previous position.

The students’ response to the event seemed to be positive. Senior public relations student Liliana Peralta thought the information was helpful.

Peralta said she learned, “just to keep my options open. Even if it’s not about what you did in school.”

Only 20 students attended the event. “I don’t think they could have done more. Everything was there,” said Peralta. “There was already food. Great food. And people missed it. And there was a raffle…I don’t know what else they could do to get more people to attend.”

The event ended with a raffle. Senior Jeremiah Stamos won the Lenovo tablet that was donated by the Young Professionals.

The next Career Center event is ”The Dream Share Project”  on Nov. 11 at 3:50 p.m. in Hudson Auditorium.